Wednesday, May 14, 2008
We woke up Wednesday morning around 3 am and didn't go back to sleep. So, not only were we 15 hours ahead of our time at home - but we lost a day!
We got out of bed around 5 and went for a run. The city was quiet and peaceful. There was smog, it wasn't so thick that it bothered our breathing, you could just tell it was there. During our run we saw several others from our group pounding the pavement. We saw some Chinese heading to work on their bikes, street vendors setting up their carts and newspaper delivery folks delivering their bulk drops. It felt good to be out and moving around.
Breakfast was served to us in our own banquet room. It was set up buffet style - american breakfast! We knew these foods! Eggs, bacon, toast, fruit, coffee, danishes, hashbrowns - even pasta and sauce. We ate, then headed up to shower.
We were on the bus around 8 and ready to head off for our first full day in Beijing! First stop - Tiananmen Square. Beijing is the capitol of China - so it was much like begin in Washington DC. Tour groups everywhere - from every country you could imagine. Government buildings surrounded us. Our tour guide - Bing - gave us alot of information.
Across the street from Tiananmen Square is the Emperor's Palace. If you saw the movie "The Last Emperor" - it took place here. You cannot imagine the expanse of this place - it went on for miles - I believe it is about two miles long. We would walk into a courtyard and then walk through a doorway to another courtyard...they seemed to be never ending. We spend several hours here - learning about the life and times of the emperors.
Quite unexpectedly - we went through the last doorway, expecting to see another courtyard or the exit - instead - we were in an enormous garden, full of trees, shrubs, gazebos and water features. It was so beautiful. I could have stayed there all day.
We were literally herded back to our bus - we took the hour long ride out of the city to the Summer Palace. This was where the emperor's mother spent the summers since it was so hot in the city.
This place was amazing. It was huge - lush and green surrouding the biggest man made lake I have ever seen. There was an endless covered walk way. We made good use of this - it started to POUR while we were there - we were able to stroll along under cover and not get drenched.
We cut our stay here a little short due to the rain. We ran back to the bus and started our trip back into the city. It must have been about a 10 mile drive. Due to the rain - there was the worst traffic ever - it took us three hours to get back to the hotel. Every direction you looked, it was bumper to bumper traffic. We moved at a snails pace. At one point I said to Trevor, "we flew from Portland to San Francisco in less time than this bus ride to go 10 miles". I was getting very cranky and could not stand being on that bus any longer. We had dinner plans to see an acrobatic show. We got to the hotel around 5:30 and were to meet in the lobby at 6 to get on the bus. There was no way I was getting back on that bus. Trevor and I decided to stay at the hotel and just eat in the restaurant.
The menu was in Chinese and English - yet we still weren't sure what we were going to get - we tried to keep it simple - we ordered chicken and spicy beef. When they put the chicken on the table, the first thing I noticed was its feet. The first thing Trevor noticed was its beak. They gave us the whole chicken. It made me sad and so I didn't eat too much of it. The beef was really good - I was really wishing they had served it with its head and feet so I could be sure it really was a cow. After dinner - we headed up to our room and went to bed early - it was an exhausting day!